Creative Labs 30GB Nomad Jukeboxby Matthew Witheiler on July 26, 2001 11:41 PM EST
How it Works
The Nomad Jukebox, which is about the size of a portable CD player measuring 5.5" x 5" x 1.5" (W x H x D) and weighing in at 14 oz, can probably hold all of your MP3s and more. How exactly does it do this?
Well, popping off the top of the Jukebox reveals that the Jukebox is really a hard drive in a box. The vast majority of the Jukebox's space is dedicated to the hard drive which is identical to those found in laptops. It is preferable to use a laptop hard drive over a desktop hard drive in these applications because of more than just size. Laptop hard drives are much more resistant to shock than a standard hard drive, meaning that the Jukebox will not be injured by the bumps and bruises it receives in normal operation, for example in a backpack. Laptop hard drives also consume less power than their desktop counterparts, meaning that you don't need a massive battery to get the Jukebox working.
Instead, the Jukebox uses four AA 1.2V 1800mAh rechargeable nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries to power the hard drive and audio components. These batteries are much more powerful than standard alkaline batteries and the 1800mAh rating of the batteries is even more powerful than your typical Ni-MH battery. The battery component block also takes up quite a bit of space on the player, resulting in a large, and somewhat heavy, rear end. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any way around it, as fewer batteries would surely decrease play time.
We found that the included 1800mAh Ni-MH batteries would power our Jukebox for a little under 4 hours during normal use. Initial charge time for the batteries was 12 hours using the included 12V charger, but subsequent charges are listed as taking 4 hours when powered off and 10 hours while in use. The playback time was not astonishing, but should suffice for shorter trips. Additional batteries will set you back around $13, an amount that seems like a wise investment if you are looking on using your Jukebox for a long time between charges.
Flipping the disassembled Jukebox over, we find the front of the unit. This surface of the PCB is rather bare, consisting of a few basic electronic components and the large 132x64 green backlit LCD display. The LCD does not appear to have any anti-reflective coat on it.
The powerful components of the Nomad Jukebox lie hidden underneath the laptop hard drive. By removing the hard drive, a process that consists of removing 4 screws and sliding the drive out, we can get a better idea of what powers the Jukebox.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of computing power under the Jukebox's hood. The big Cirrus Logic chip located in the center of the PCB is a Cirrus Logic Maverick EP7212 chip. This chip makes use of of an integrated ARM720T processor that is capable of performing on the lines of a 100MHz Pentium processor. The core is dynamically programmable and offers speeds of 18, 36, 49, and 74MHz at 2.5 volts. The chip includes an LCD controller, a DRAM controller, on-chip ROM, and native MP3 support. It is this chip that is truly the brains behind the Jukebox's operation, as it controls both the interface as well as decodes the MP3 files for playback.
Also located under the hard drive is a Texas Instruments TMS320VC5410-100 digital signal processor. We suspect that this chip is used to give the Jukebox it's EAX functionality. For those not familiar with EAX, it is an audio manipulation process that allows for environmental effects as well as the manipulation of many audio qualities such as individual frequencies and playback speed. The chip also separates the front and rear channels that can be used via the line out jacks in the back of the unit.
The other notable item located under the drive is the 8MB of DRAM used as a buffer. This allows for "5 minutes shock protection" although hopefully you will never be bouncing the Jukebox around enough to require the full 5 minutes of buffer.